Saturday, January 19, 2013

Happy Birthday, Edgar

E A Poe, undated photoToday in 1809, in Boston, Edgar Allan Poe was born. Wikipedia notes
Best known for his tales of mystery and the macabre, Poe was one of the earliest American practitioners of the short story and is considered the inventor of the detective-fiction genre. He is further credited with contributing to the emerging genre of science fiction. He was the first well-known American writer to try to earn a living through writing alone, resulting in a financially difficult life and career.
Oh, that Wikipedia and its wacky understatements!

He died in Baltimore, probably as a result of drug- and alcohol-poisoning due to cooping (the practice of kidnapping someone and forcing them to vote often in many precincts), though there have been many theories of his death, all records being lost. Until a couple of years ago, three roses and a bottle of cognac, half empty, were left on his grave every year for more than 60 years. Three years ago was the first time the anonymous visitor didn't come, and he hasn't come since, meaning it's likely that he died and left no-one to carry on the tradition.

Here's one of Poe's shorter, less macabre works (with a lovely dangling participle in the second verse!):

To Helen

Helen, thy beauty is to me
    Like those Nicean barks of yore,
That gently, o'er a perfumed sea,
    The weary, wayworn wanderer bore
    To his own native shore.

On desperate seas long wont to roam,
    Thy hyacinth hair, thy classic face,
Thy Naiad airs have brought me home
    To the glory that was Greece
And the grandeur that was Rome.

Lo! in yon brilliant window-niche
    How statue-like I see thee stand,
    The agate lamp within thy hand!
Ah, Psyche, from the regions which
    Are Holy Land!

More can be found here


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